Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Aotearoa/NZ: Education ‘Reforms’ pave way for privatisation Pt 2

Part Two: Secondary Teachers’ Struggles

What is the crisis in education? It’s the crisis that the bosses don’t want to pay with their taxes that are a drain on their profits, because they don’t need universal, compulsory, state funded education to produce enough workers, when it is cheaper to resort to funding cuts, user pays, performance pay for teachers, and to get the private sector to run schools.  The trend towards privatisation began with Labour’s Tomorrow’s Schools in the 1980’s and National’s bulk funding during the 1990’s.  It has been given new life by the current National/Act Government which wants to introduce performance pay for teachers and to turn our schools into Public Private Partnerships.

In the last issue we looked at cuts in publicly funded early childhood and adult education, and at how National Standards at primary schools could lead to league tables and increasing inequality between schools. We wrote about the struggle of the New Zealand Educational Institute, Te Riu Roa, (NZEI) the primary and early childhood teachers’ and support staff’s union, to stop National Standards.

This time it is the secondary teachers in the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) who are on the front lines of defending public education; demanding decent pay for teachers, and safe quality learning and teaching conditions. 

With the appointment of Rodney Hide from the Act Party as Associate Minister of Education the need for a fight back to save public education is stronger than ever. In the long run, this can only be achieved by abolishing the capitalist system altogether. Capitalism will always try to exploit human creativity to maximise private profits rather than meeting social needs, especially so in times of crisis such as today. Education is no exception.

Secondary Teachers Strike for Public Education

After months of unsuccessful struggle for improved wages and conditions, 95% of the members of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA), the secondary teachers’ union, voted in favour of a strike.  On 15th September, PPTA teachers went on a one day strike for a 4% salary increase, reduced class sizes, a safe school environment, better teacher recruitment and retention, and an end to claw backs from the Ministry of Education.

Teachers rallied in centres across the country. 1,000 teachers in Wellington marched to Parliament, and 2,500 teachers in Auckland rallied in Albert Part then marched down to Queen St., grinding it to a halt on their way to Queen Elizabeth Square.  The one-day strike was the first in eight years for the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and it affected about 280,000 students from more than 450 secondary and intermediate schools.

The PPTA asked Boards of Trustees to donate their missed day’s pay to the Canterbury Earthquake The government is offering teachers only a 1.5% salary increase.  PPTA President Kate Gainsford said that remuneration alone would not solve the pressure put on teachers by growing classes and a bigger workload under the NCEA system.  Teachers, who are required to redesign new standards, have described their current workload as “insane”.

New Zealand teachers are among the lowest paid in the OECD, yet John Key is “disappointed” that they are not prepared to accept the “real word” of public sector low pay and cuts in order to help pay for the capitalist crisis and fund its privatisation agenda. This includes an education staffing budget cut of $95 million over four years in the 2009 budget, at the same time as increasing spending on private schools by $36 million.

The PPTA points out on its website that teachers cannot carry out the personalised learning programmes required by the NCEA with huge class sizes. Most classrooms are designed for twenty five students, yet most year nine and year ten classes exceed that number. In some classrooms students even have to sit on the window sill. Schools are being forced to fund extra teachers out of their operations grants in order to try to bring class sizes down. Around 10% of teachers are hired directly by the boards.

The PPTA points out that large sized classes are better suited the factory method of education.  This is not supposed to be modern education practice. High class sizes create enormous stress for teachers and students, reducing teacher retention and student engagement. They are a health and safety risk, risking increased violence and disruption at school, and even impacting upon problems such as teen pregnancies and suicides. 
The PPTA has said enough is enough on class size, time for the government to step up. 
Academic John Hattie stunned teachers in 2007 when he suggested that class sizes were not a significant factor in learning. He said instead that the main factor was the relationship between the student and teacher. This may well be so, but how is a student to develop such a relationship in a huge class. The PPTA is adamant that the prevalence of over-size classes in our secondary schools is at odds with the needs of both students and teachers in today’s classrooms. The biggest truths are not hard to grasp. The fewer students a teacher has to deal with at once, the more likely he or she is to reach all of them. Research both nationally and internationally proves that the smaller the class size the better the students’ attendance, the longer they stay in school, the more likely they leave with qualifications, and earn more in later life. In short, they become more interested in learning and engaging constructively in the world.

However the Minister of Education Anne Tolley is not listening and Bill English says the PPTA is wasting its time as the minister has no money to give them , indicating that National is not interested in investing in education during their capitalist crisis no matter what the long term costs to society of refusing to do so.
The government seems incredulous that secondary teachers, unlike nurses, junior doctors, policemen, civil servants, have not buckled under and agreed to pay for the capitalist crisis with substandard wages and conditions.

Mrs Tolley attended the PPTA national conference on 28 September. On the TV3 News, she looked worried and asked the teachers to return to negotiations but she didn’t offer anything and refused to rule out a lock out if the dispute continues.

The PPTA has emphasised that safety and learning conditions are equally as important as remuneration but the government has made no offers to reduce class sizes. On the contrary-it’s planning to lift the current limit on class sizes. The PPTA originally said that they were in for the long haul with more strikes planned. However they have since pulled back from full day strikes and only plan to do eight partial strikes where they refuse to teach students at certain levels, and do not attend teacher only days, or meetings after 5pm.

At the time of writing the PPTA has called off industrial action for the rest of the week from October 13th, because on the 12th the Government promised to make an offer that would be “worth their while”. However, after a day of negotiations the PPTA President said that this claim was “astonishing”. Nevertheless, negotiations continue this week with the PPTA planning to re-commence industrial action next week if no satisfactory agreement is reached.  

The PPTA has strong positions on many broad issues, including opposition to national standards, Public Private Partnerships, and the 90 Day Act. The one day strike is a great start, but stronger sustained action is almost certainly needed if the teachers’ demands are to be met, The Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement says that the leadership of the PPTA is looking for negotiated settlement with the Government, and are in danger of compromising too much. They believe that teachers may need to take direct action. They talk about the need for solidarity with members of other unions and community networks, whereas we would say that the old demand for One Education Union, under the control of the rank and file, is the logical demand to raise.  

Media Criminalise Teachers

During this period of teacher activism, the media responded with enthusiasm to the Ministers attempts to ‘criminalise’ teachers. The Sunday Star Times wrote a number of frantic articles on “criminal teachers” reaching its peak with the front page story:  “Criminals in our classrooms” “the story the Teachers Council did not want told” followed on page two by: “Minister wants to know why criminals are still teaching”, and: “Experts should monitor teachers, says Professor”.

Instead of rejecting this as an attempt by the Minister to discredit the teachers’ campaign, the Teachers’ Council went on the defensive, sending an email around to all registered teachers, explaining that the proportion of teachers with criminal convictions was tiny.   

This media assault on the Teachers’ Council is ironic considering that in July we heard that the Teachers’ Council had de-registered a pre-school teacher as an “unfit role model” who had not declared earnings while on a benefit, and training to be an ECE teacher.  The defendant said “I didn’t defraud/steal out of greed, I was doing it to survive and provide for my daughter. I am sorry.” 

Here we have a single parent who had made a supreme effort to overcome social discrimination, to qualify and practice as a teacher and to support her child; and the Teachers’ Council ruined her chance for life to do this, even though she posed no danger to children whatsoever. Despite its willingness to issue such harsh and unjust decisions, the Teachers’ Council is under enormous pressure from the media to de-register more teachers.

The Teachers’ Council is in a dual role, being appointed by the Government yet supposedly representing teachers. It recently made itself unpopular by issuing a huge hike in teacher registration fees. Kate Gainsford sees the Teachers’ Council as a potential ally of teachers, and notes that it opposed performance pay and new government plans for the initial education of teachers.  She says: “The question is how to move the council away from being an arm of the government into a genuinely teacher-led body.” 

The fight to defend free, compulsory, universal, public education from Early Childhood to Adult Education is only just beginning. The NACTs attempts to privatise education and cut state spending as a drain on bosses’ profits will meet stiff resistance as the unions and wider working class mobilises to fight for their basic right to a fully funded public education! Watch this space!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Africa: DRC caught between the US and China

The UN Mapping Report on genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) released on October  highlights the basic causes of the more recent wars that have raged over the Congo’s rich resources since its independence in 1960. The report focuses on the period from 1993 to 2003 in the East of DRC, and argues that Rwandan forces were among those of 7 armies from different countries that have been active in the DRC to illegally exploit the mineral riches. The report has been toned down because of the objections of Rwanda to its description of the genocide of Hutus in the DRC over this period. 

It is clear that behind these wars is the scramble by a number of imperialist powers and their African proxy armies for control of the huge mineral wealth of the DRC. Historically European powers and the US have been the major imperialist partners. While Chinese companies have long been beneficiaries of the ‘informal’ mining of Coltan, cassiterite (tin), gold and diamond wealth of the East of DRC, today China has become the main official imperialist partner of the Kabila regime in taking over copper production in Katanga. The situation is ripe for more explosive confrontations between the militias aligned to the interests of Chinese and US imperialism over the exploitation of the DRCs mineral wealth.  

As the author of the Mapping Report points out, the focus on war crimes and genocide in this report confirms what has been known for years: “The most serious and systematic crimes are placed firmly on the doorstep of Paul Kagame’s Rwanda. The report not only mentions dozens of occurrences of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also points at “circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part”, a reference to the genocide convention.

A UN investigative team already came to a similar conclusion in 1998: 
“The systematic massacre of those (Hutu refugees) remaining in DRC was an abhorrent crime against humanity, but the underlying rationale for the decision is material to whether these killings constituted genocide, that is, a decision to eliminate, in part, the Hutu ethnic group”. The psychologically charged discussion of the ‘g word’ is not that relevant: the other documented crimes are serious enough to warrant the prosecution of suspects. The report does not even address the tens of thousands of civilians killed by the RPF in Rwanda in 1994 and between 1997 and 1998.

Besides Rwanda, many other regional players were responsible for serious human rights violations: the armed forces of Congo, Angola, Burundi and Uganda are mentioned, but also unofficial armed groups ranging from ethnic militias to rebel movements from Congo and neighbouring countries. Apart from a few militia leaders from Ituri and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, no one has ever been prosecuted.” 

What underlies these decades of violence in the DRC?

In his response to the release of the Mapping Report, DRC Justice Minister Luzolo Bambi points to the competition between Western companies for natural resources as the basic causes of the violence described in the Report, but claims that: “The mapping project does not take into account the criminal responsibility of all those corporations, multinationals and other international consortia of companies which have funded and continue to fund the war in DRC...These contractors and supporters of war and death must also have a place reserved in a criminal trial.”

Bloomberg reports: “Congo holds 4 percent of global copper reserves, is among the world’s largest producers of cobalt and industrial diamonds, and is Africa’s largest producer of tin ore, known as cassiterite, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.

In 2002, a UN report on the exploitation of natural resources in Congo found that 85 companies may have violated the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by supporting the war directly or indirectly. The guidelines are non-binding principles and standards for the behaviour of companies from OECD countries.

Several mineral traders on that list, including U.S.-based Cabot Corp. and U.K.-based Amalgamated Metals Corp. Plc, have denied they were doing business in Congo or eventually stopped working in the region."

Chapter 3 of the Mapping Report provides an overview of the proof that the Hutu militia in the DRC, the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the liberation of Rwanda), acts in collaboration with the DRC armed forces - the FARDC - to control much of the production of minerals in North and South Kivu. These forces are aligned with the Kabila regime but at the same time acting independently to profit from mining minerals. They are constantly engaged in warfare with the Rwandan and Ugandan backed forces, in particular the CNFP (National Congress for the Defence of the People) who are likewise fighting to control mining and the lucrative exports of Coltan, cassiterite, gold and diamonds. The Rwandan and Ugandan forces are aligned with the US and are hostile to the findings of the Mapping Report especially the reference to Tutsi genocide of Hutus in the DRC. 

The UN Report of the Group of Experts in 2008 goes much deeper and traces the illegally mined minerals from their source through the merchants to export and finally to the companies in a number of countries which fund the trade and exploit the mineral wealth. They include Traxys (Belgium), Afrimex (UK) Thailand Smelting and Refining, Emirates Gold (Dubai) and others. Thus much of the DRCs mineral wealth ends up in the hands of many intermediaries including the militias in the East of the DRC,  and the agents in Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe etc, before finally ending up in many countries including Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Switzerland, Netherlands, Russia, UAE and UK.
China’s collaboration with the DRC
What about China’s growing influence? China has moved into the DRC with a massive deal with the regime of Joseph Kabila to mine copper and build infrastructure in Katanga.
Joseph Kabila and the DRC army are also working with Chinese interests in the informal mining of Coltan and shipping it out via Zaire. This has attracted the attention of NGOs exposing the inhuman methods used by Chinese firms. 
From a RAID report of China’s mining operations in the DRC:
“Concluding, RAID states that the report does not seek to embarrass the People’s Republic of China (PRC) nor to tarnish its image in the developing world. The report does however provide first hand allegations of widespread corporate misconduct and human rights abuse by Chinese companies operating in Katanga, which should prompt the Chinese and DRC governments to take urgent measures. The report’s findings highlight the need to promote greater awareness of responsible corporate behaviour among Chinese companies operating abroad. The problems described in the report are not confined to Chinese operators and similar conditions prevail in companies owned by Congolese or nationals of other countries. But the Chinese are the most significant operators in the mineral sector in Katanga. According to the Governor of the Province more than 60 out of Katanga’s 75 processing plants are owned by Chinese companies and over 90 per cent of the region’s minerals go to China.6 Congolese workers and Chinese managers have given candid accounts of the indignities, harassment, threats and abuse that they endure on a daily basis. They have set out what they feel is needed to improve workplace conditions, environmental protection, health and safety standards, community relations and corporate accountability. The recommendations addressed to both the DRC and Chinese Governments are set out at the end of the report. In RAID’s view it is only by supporting such improvements that China can hope to reach the goals that it has set itself in its Africa foreign policy declaration concerning sustainable development and harmonious relations between peoples.” 

The DRC is an ongoing arena of inter-imperialist rivalry over the illegal mining of valuable minerals. The US and the EU imperialist powers have traditionally been the main exploiters of the Congo. But recently China has become the main imperialist partner of the Joseph Kabila regime in the DRC. The two main militias are the CNDP aligned to Rwanda and Uganda and thus the US, while Kabila’s FARDC and the militias it backs are aligned broadly to China. The growing rivalry between these two imperialist powers can be seen as the ultimate cause of the ongoing barbaric wars, mass rape and slave labor conditions suffered by the people of the Eastern DRC.

Class Struggle 91 September-October 2010


Draft Theses on the Crisis and World Situation

Greek Youth February 2010

1- Objectively we are living through a major structural crisis of global capitalism. We said when this crisis hit in mid 07 that it was a major crisis of falling profits endemic to capitalism. The subprime crisis was only a surface effect of the underlying failure to invest in production that was not profitable. So-called ‘financialization’ is just the appearance of ‘finance capital’ (understood in Lenin’s terms as the fusion of industrial and banking capital) being driven out of the productive circuit by the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. The result has been many trillions of overproduced surplus capital speculating in existing commodities driving up their prices and creating a bubble of fictitious capital. The crisis will only be resolved for the ruling class when they have devalued sufficient surplus capital to enable profits to be restored.

2- The first phase of the crisis brought about the biggest rescue of capital by the state in history yet the crisis is not over and capital is still facing trillions of bad debts which have yet to be devalued or destroyed. Nor have the ruling classes yet imposed the deep austerity measures that they need to restore their profits. The initial reaction to the 'financial crisis' was to increase state spending i.e. reflation. According to Ticktin, however, this year the G20 made the decision to reverse reflation and radically deflate by massively cutting state spending to reduce budget deficits. Only the US resisted this change, probably because the US is not bound by the normal rules and can run massive debts because the dollar is the world currency. The logic of a structural crisis as the ‘solution’ to falling profits is to ‘restructure’ or devalue capital – both constant (plant and raw materials) and variable capital (wages) - by concentrating and centralising capital as the weak firms go bankrupt and strong firms buy up their cheap assets. This means necessarily in the epoch of imperialism a growing rivalry between imperialist powers to re-divide the world in the survival of the fittest monopoly firms. This rivalry takes economic form in trade rivalry as each state attempts to block imports but increase exports, but this rivalry can only be resolved by imperialist war or international class war. Today at this point in history this rivalry is most intense between the US led bloc and the China bloc, and it is this growing antagonism that gives concrete expression to the dominant aspects of the epoch of imperialism, of crises, wars and revolutions. Once again a structural crisis means we have to choose between socialism or barbarism and we are well down the road to barbarism.

3- The so-called currency war is a first step in a trade war with China that the US cannot win because China's low labor costs combined with rapid technological upgrading means it is the most productive of commodities with least labour time (value) and can out-compete its rivals. China has overtaken Japan and Germany as the workshop of the world and cannot be beaten in the trade war. The value of the yuan is therefore not artificially kept low but reflects China’s capitalist productive dynamism. What is more China is moving rapidly from a capital importing country to a capital exporting country which means it is extending its high productivity base globally in sourcing cheap raw materials and labor power and finding new markets outside the US and Asia in which to manufacture and sell its cheap commodities.

4- China is winning the trade war and rapidly expanding its spheres of interest at the expense of the US and its main partners the UK, France and Spain. A number of countries have avoided the worst aspects of the recession through trade driven by China. US allies like Italy, Germany and Australia are trading and investing heavily with China. Turkey is turning from the EU towards China. In Brazil one fraction of the national bourgeoisie is opposed to further growth in China investments especially in agriculture and in key sectors such as communications. The ALBA states are becoming dependent on China and looking for new loans to maintain popularity with the masses. In Ecuador, Correa is doing deals with China to build dams and infrastructure and loan money to balance the budget. The recent attempted coup was a weak move by the US to exploit discontent with Correa’s move to the right, which was not to appease the US but rather China which is driving hard bargains with Ecuador.

5- This growing rivalry with China and the increasing power of the China bloc (which threatens to split NATO) means that the US must rev up its use of military force around the world to counter China’s influence. Its struggle for control of Central Asia that has justified the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan has not been able to contain or weaken China or Russia. Russia is now looking to collaborate with NATO in its military intervention in Afghanistan.The wikileaks exposed the fact that Iraq was always under the dominance of the Shi’ites. Kazai gets money from Iran and seeks a deal with the Taliban. The dominant national blocs in Iraq and Afghanistan are aligned to Iran and Pakistan respectively, both of which are closer to the China bloc than the US bloc. Therefore the US must move on Iran and Pakistan to squeeze out China. The US is renewing its plans for building the TAPI pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India to weld an alliance in South Asia to break Russia and China’s domination of Central Asian oil.

6- The growing US drone attacks on Pakistan mean that the US wants to take direct control of Pakistan to isolate its nuclear weapons and to checkmate China’s overland access to Arabian Gulf and Iran. Bangladesh has now been incorporated into NATO South Asian allies and is sending troops to the war in Afghanistan. In the growing military confrontation over control of Central Asia the nuclear armed India is being pressured by the US into buying Patriot 3 missiles to complete the ring of missiles surrounding Russia and China stretching from Japan to Afghanistan. India is also preparing for border wars with China over Kashmir and Nepal. Bangladesh is now part of the encirclement.

7- Ultimately, and inevitably these actual and impending wars must be at the expense of the workers of the world. The huge cost of military spending is driving the US further into debt. While it is still reflating with Quantitative Easing Mark 2 (printing money) this money is going to the banks which are not investing but paying out profits and bonuses. It is not going to the workers who are still losing jobs and homes. With reflation causing inflation the US working class is suffering an historic decline in living standards not seen since the 1930's. The US is bullying Japan and China to carry the debt which becomes translated into attacks on workers living standards in these countries. China is easing back on buying US bonds and shows no signs of bending to any of the threats being issued by the US. It appears instead to be moving to more FDI in the US. Japan is more compliant but unable to finance US debt as its economy is not strong enough. Japan under the Democratic Party government is under pressure from Japanese workers opposed to paying billions for US bases.

8- Thus the US and other increasingly bankrupt imperialists have no option but to impose the cost of the crisis onto the backs of the worlds’ workers with so-called austerity measures. The bailouts of the banks has imposed big budget deficits which the ruling class is determined to cut by cutting social spending and/or by “quantitative easing” both of which cuts the value of variable capital (wages). The US, UK and EU imperialist states are forcibly expropriating surplus value not only from workers today, but from workers in future generations, to maintain the monopoly profits of their imperialist classes. This means massive unemployment and social spending. These so-called austerity measures are draconian. In every country the ruling class is trying to solve its crisis of falling profits by reducing taxes on capital, and this means massively cutting social spending on the social wage. In Britain the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government is promising a cut in public sector spending in excess of 20%. In Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and France there are major cuts on social spending being imposed on workers.

9- As unemployment rises and services are cut, the anger of millions of workers facing poverty and destitution is growing. But this anger is being steered by the main union bosses into token protests to build mass pressure to push the bourgeois regimes to the left containing and diverting the rise of working class militancy onto the parliamentary road. Where the social democratic parties are in power imposing austerity as in Greece and Spain, the fight-back is being limited by the unions to pressuring these governments to make these austerity measures less damaging. In the US where the open bourgeois Democrat Party controls Congress and the Presidency, the One Nation Project is being organized by the union tops to put pressure on the Democrats to adopt a new deal Keynesian counter-cyclic policy. Where they are out of power, social democratic parties are shifting slightly to the left to head off mass militancy against the ruling conservative parties, so that this fightback is contained and channeled into the election of Social Democratic governments at the next elections. In Britain the Blairite Labour Party under Ed Milliband has feinted slightly to the left in recognizing that if the CONDEM regime cannot contain a mass fightback and is brought down, then social democracy can still try to play a role in containing militant industrial action from developing into a revolutionary challenge to the bourgeois system itself.

10- These social democrats or left liberals are arguing that austerity is a wrong policy since it leads to deflation and depression. They hope to direct workers anger into social democratic and left liberal programs that can solve the crisis. In Britain the fake left SWP (see New Left Blog) argues that the CONDEM austerity is not necessary for the restoration of profits! Of course this exposes their non-Marxist view that capitalist crises are merely the result of wrong policies and elite greed. Marxists know that capitalist crises are the inevitable result of capital over-accumulation, and while reformists sow illusions in the possibility of reflation to boost jobs and incomes, crises can only be resolved in the bosses’ interests by massive deflation. The crisis forces a devaluation of total capital by destroying the weakest banks and firms allowing the strongest to concentrate and centralize their ‘good’ assets into even bigger monopolies. We can see this has been happening since 2007. It is not in the interests of Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citibank etc., as well as the big Euro banks and big Chinese banks, to resort to reflation if it devalues the good assets and prevents the devaluing of bad assets. These gigantic monopolies completely control their nation states and dictate economic policy to protect their class interests. This is why the bailouts have gone into bosses’ pockets and not into new investment in production. This means that the ruling class will close ranks behind their national states in defence of their monopoly corporations and make the weakest firms, nations, and of course workers, go to the wall.

11- The result is that the destruction of total value to restore profits includes the total value of labour power through job losses and wage cuts. Thus it is the working class that ultimately always pays for the crisis. As the austerity bites we can see the spontaneous fightback spreading from Greece to Spain, to France in the EU. From the first strikes that began in 2008 in Greece we have seen a succession of strikes controlled by the bureaucracy. In Spain it is the same, no strike call has lead to a national coordination of strike actions, or an indefinite general strike. Not until France have we seen the strikes spread and threaten to break out of the control of the bureaucrats. Yet, even here we do not see a breakdown of bureaucratic control, because no revolutionary leadership has emerged that can turn spontaneous strikes into a general strike to bring down the bourgeois government and put a workers government in its place. The fake Trotskyists of the NPA say that they will not call for a general strike and will back the negotiations between the bureaucrats and the bourgeois regime. (Le Monde).The IMT calls for a general strike to defeat the government and paralyze the economy, and for the Communist Party to demand the nationalisation of the big companies and the banks!

12- The objective dynamic of worsening crisis clashes with the subjective absence of a revolutionary leadership to lead the working class to solve the crisis in it class interests. The failure to build this leadership will mean that working class struggle is unable to challenge the power of the ruling class, leaving the middle classes who are also hit by the crisis and the more backward non-unionized sectors of the working class. They will be ripe for fascist mobilization to smash the workers organisations blaming them as responsible for the flood of migrant workers, and for the loss of jobs and the austerity measures rather than the capitalist class itself. In France while the unions mobilise strike action there is almost no organized opposition to Sarkosy’s campaign of forced extradition of Roma and the ban against the wearing of Burqa in public. It is clear that the bureaucratic leadership of Labour and social democratic parties are part of the national salvation blocs that are always formed by the imperialists and national bourgeoisies to unite workers and middle class with the bourgeoisie against foreign workers and against the international threat of a socialist revolution.

13- In the face of mounting evidence of man-made climate change and big changes in weather patterns that cause devastating floods and crop failures, the climate change denier lobby is working for the corporates to inflame the populist petty bourgeois and backward workers into blaming carbon taxes on profits as more taxation of the little person by big states. The oil giants like BP can still get away with massive destruction in wars for oil in the Middle East, and a catastrophic oil spill in the Caribbean and pays only a small part of the social and environmental costs of such capitalist disasters. Here we see the full face of capitalism riding roughshod over national states to destroy the forces of production including the habitat of whole populations as in Pakistan and in the Gulf of Mexico. And while China is now leading the world in ‘green’ technology, it is still building dams and nuclear plants, rail-tracks through tundra and forests around the world, high speed rail even in California, cultivating vast tracts of agricultural land despoiling natural habitats in Brazil and Tibet, enlarging its carbon footprint with each giant step around the world.

14- We can see the proto-fascist movements already in existence. In Britain the national salvation bloc is the Bj4Bw campaign of 2009 which sought to protect jobs for British workers against other EU workers. This puts the British trade unions in the same reactionary national camp as the BNP and other extreme right forces. In Germany and the Netherlands there are proto-fascist organisations campaigning against migrant workers, especially of Islamic religion. Germany has had a backlash against immigrants and bailing out Greece. Merkel has called ‘multiculturalism’ a failure. The EU is in danger of being torn apart by the centripetal forces of the bipolar world into rival xenophobias. In the US the Tea Party is a rightwing populist movement aligned to the Republicans that can easily develop into a fascist movement. As the crisis deepens we will see the working class organize to resist its attacks and this will pose a threat to the bourgeoisies who will revive the old fascist arguments for national salvation against alien forces.

15- While Islam has been projected as the main enemy of freedom and democracy since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is now being rivaled by Chinese ‘communism’. The US ruling class is leading the demonizing of China as a communist regime that is putting capitalist democracy under threat. What underlies this demonization of Chinese ‘communism’ is of course the rise of China as a threat to US hegemony. The weakness of the US economy has prompted a suggestion by a US professor teaching in China that China could even invest its excess finance capital in the US to fund a ‘new deal’? That this can even be proposed marks the perception of a real decline of the US as the hegemonic imperialist power to one that can become dependent on China as the newly hegemonic power. This sense of a loss of hegemonic power is what underlies the blaming of the crisis on China. The rallying of the Tea Party reactionary populism against liberal or ‘socialist’ elites implies that the US people have been sold out to China and to Latin American migrants. China and Bolivarian ‘socialism’ becomes perceived as the overarching enemy of the American people and the cause of its historic decline.

16- The fake ‘left’ defends Castro and Chavez from US imperialism, but sows illusions in their converging brand of Chinese-style ‘market socialism’, or ‘green capitalism’, and so disarms the international working class against the rise of anti-China xenophobia and proto-fascism in the imperialist countries. (Green Left News). The reformist left puts its faith in bourgeois Bonapartist leaders (who balance between the masses and the imperialist bourgeoisie) in the ALBA countries and the restorationist bureaucratic Bonapartists in Cuba rather than call for a political revolution because they think that China as a global power offers a progressive alternative to the imperialist US and its allies. This treachery leaves workers unprepared to stop the restoration of capitalism in Cuba and the coming counter-revolutionary wars at the hands of all the imperialist ruling classes, including China.

17- Facing this objective crisis and the subjective crisis of the failure of revolutionary leadership this puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of revolutionary Trotskyists to struggle all the more urgently to re-found a revolutionary international on the basis of the Transitional Program of 1938. Trotsky laid down the principles of revolutionary internationalism to fight imperialist crises in the 1930s. In the epoch of imperialism workers have to break from the patriotic popular fronts with their bourgeoisie, and with the labor bureaucrats that act as the agents of the bourgeoisie, and refuse to fight against the workers of other nations. Instead they become brothers and sisters of working class fighters in every nation. Facing a deepening crisis and the inevitable transformation of trade wars between rival imperialist powers into military wars, we must demand the unity of workers of all countries to fight for an international socialist revolution. We must defend all workers especially the most oppressed - on national, ethnic, gender and sexual grounds - against attacks by uniting them into one force across national borders to defeat all attempts by the ruling class and their labor lieutenants to divide and rule the world proletariat.

18- The refounding of a new World Party of Socialism based on a Leninist Trotskyist program will solve the crisis of revolutionary leadership. The only way for workers internationally to stop the fascist counter-revolution is to break from the Bolivarian and Chinese Bonapartist bourgeoisies and their bureaucratic lieutenants and organise their own independent workers councils and workers militias to mount political general strikes to bring down the bourgeois regimes and replace them with Workers and Peasants governments forming socialist federations on every continent!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ecuador: What’s behind the attempted Coup?

The cause of the attempted coup in October can be found in the backwardness of the Ecuador economy and its new dependence on Chinese imperialism. The least viable of ALBA, facing mounting debt Correa has moved to the right to open up the country to Chinese investment.  This has alienated sections of his support base in the unions and the indigenous organisations (Conaie) who largely kept out of the coup attempt. The Bolivarian populists blame these indigenous social movements as bought by US imperialism, instead of blaming Correa for opening up the country to Chinese imperialism. It is China that is spending billions building a new dam, opening up new mines and making loans for oil.

Under the heading ‘Has China just bought is own Latin American Country?’  one source reports China now finances a majority of the public energy projects underway in Ecuador. Recent deals include an 85% stake in a hydroelectric dam that will cover a third of the country's energy needs by 2016. 

Chinese firms will also take charge of most construction. As you can imagine if another country controlled our utilities, many Ecuadorians are extemely anxious, reports Asia Times: For his part, former Ecuadorean vice president Leon Roldos (1981-1984) maintained that the loan is illegal, because it finances a "turn-key contract" without "definitive studies or detail engineering", which he said is expressly prohibited by law. Ecuadorians are also upset by loans they call larger than necessary: Another contradiction, Roldos argued, is that although it is a fixed price contract, the financing deal is based on price indexing - adjusting amounts by the change over time in prices - for materials and labor power "using a more generous formula than the one normally used for Ecuador's public procurements". In an article published last week by the El Comercio newspaper, the former vice president said the dam was "severely overpriced" because the $1.98 billion price tag is $400 million higher than the cost projected in 2008.

Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holdings Co. and China Railway Construction Corp. may invest as much as $3 billion in a copper project in Ecuador, as China seeks to control more commodity assets to feed its economy. Production at the Corriente Copper Belt may start in 2013, Hu Guobin, vice president of a venture set up by the two Chinese companies for the project, said in an interview. Annual copper in concentrate output would start at 30,000 metric tons and double a year later, he said. Chinese companies spent more than $30 billion last year buying oilfields and mines as two decades of economic growth averaging 10.1 percent made China the world’s biggest metal and energy consumer. Copper prices have doubled in the past five years, driven by demand in the third-largest economy...Tongling, China’s second-biggest copper producer, and China Railway Construction, the nation’s biggest railroad builder, in December agreed to buy Canada’s Corriente Resources Inc. for C$679 million ($652 million) for the copper resources. The deal was completed and Corriente was delisted this month, according to a statement on Corriente’s website...The rapid expansion of smelting capacity in China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of copper metal, has increased ore demand and spurred companies to invest overseas. Larger rival Jiangxi Copper Co. invested in copper mines in Peru and Afghanistan, and Zijin Mining Group Co. is seeking copper and cobalt assets in the Republic of Congo. The Corriente Copper Belt covers 17 deposits in the four main mining regions of Mirador, Mirador Norte, Panantza and San Carlos, China Railway said in December. Copper resources are about 11.54 million tons, based on initial studies, it said. Corriente was also involved in the exploration and development of gold, silver and molybdenum mines, according to the December statement.

Ecuador's government signed a loan agreement for $1 billion with the China Development Bank on 31 August 2010.  The loan will have two tranches, one for $800 million and another for $200 million. It will have a fixed interest rate of 6% per year for a four-year term and an additional six-month grace period. The loan will be used to finance Ecuador's investment programme for infrastructure and other budgetary outlays for the 2010-11 period. It will also be used to finance oil projects of national interest, said Finance Minister Patricio Rivera in a press release.The minister said that with this loan Ecuador had ensured its budget financing for 2010. In June, following meetings in Beijing, according the minutes of the meetings reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires, Ecuadorean Finance Ministry and CDB officials signed an agreement for state oil company Petroecuador to supply PetroChina with 36,000 barrels per day of Oriente and Napo crude or fuel oil until the total amount of the loan has been paid. In a decree signed on Friday by President Rafael Correa authorising to sign the loan, Correa said the operation involves Ecuador's Finance Ministry, state-run Petroecuador, Petrochina International Company and the China Development Bank. In July, Ecuador's National Public Planning Secretariat signed a memorandum of understanding with China's National Construction & Agricultural Machinery Imp./Exp. Corp, or CAMC, opening the door for potential financing by Chinese banks worth about $1 billion. Last year Ecuador's state-run oil company, Petroecuador, and PetroChina signed a two-year crude-oil supply contract. An initial $1 billion advance payment for the oil was made in August 2009 to Ecuador, with an interest rate of 7.25%.

Ecuador will probably tap the nation’s pension fund and seek a loan from China next year to help finance its estimated $2.7 billion budget deficit, according to Erich Arispe, an analyst at Fitch Ratings. South America’s seventh-biggest economy may need as much as 4.3 percent of gross domestic product to fund the “relatively large” deficit...Ecuador is using debt to increase spending on infrastructure projects and social programs in a bid to lower unemployment and boost economic growth, President Rafael Correa said in a June 5 statement. The nation’s default on $3.2 billion in bonds since 2008, declining oil production and a slump in private investment has crimped funding sources... The Finance Ministry said yesterday China delivered $800 million of a $1 billion loan agreement signed last month and will deliver the remaining $200 million in the “next months.” Ecuador owed China $3.66 billion as of July 31, according to a Finance Ministry report. The figure doesn’t include the $1 billion loan signed in August. 

US backing for the police and military who staged the coup attempt was probably to test the water to see if it had the support to remove Correa and replace him with a President aligned to the US rather than China. Correa is backed by the Bolivarian left populists who paint his reliance on China as a progressive alternative to the US. He is with Castro, Chavez and Morales, looking to Chinese ‘market socialism’ as the answer to US imperialism. Revolutionaries have to break this international popular front that unites Castro with Hu Jintao!